Even though the infamous Christopher Deedy trial occurred on Oahu, MauiTime has joined seven other Hawaii news organizations and three media associations in calling for the opening of closed session transcripts in that case. The original trial, in which Deedy–a federal agent–was charged with allegedly murdering Kollin Elderts at a Waikiki McDonald’s after an argument ensued between the men, ended in a mistrial and is currently awaiting retrial.
But Circuit Court Judge Karen Ahn didn’t follow proper procedures when declaring that mistrial, numerous news organizations around Hawaii including MauiTime are alleging. On Sept. 6, after Ahn went into a closed session without allowing any members of the public to object, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now filed a formal request with the Hawaii Supreme Court to open the transcripts of that session and force Ahn to allow for public objection should she decide to close her court again.
MauiTime and the other news organizations signed onto an amicus (“friend of the court”) brief supporting the request from the Star-Advertiser and Hawaii News Now.
“Movants share a common goal to advance the state of the law in Hawai‘i concerning the public’s right to observe criminal proceedings,” stated the motion, which was filed on Oct. 7. “But as regular observers of and reporters on Hawai‘i criminal proceedings and as staunch defenders of freedom of speech and of the press, Movants advocate that the Court go further and establish procedural guidelines for the benefit of the bench and the public. The Court may build on decades of authority from other jurisdictions concerning the public’s right to attend judicial proceedings. Such safeguards are not novel and will protect a constitutional right integral to the administration of justice.”
The other news organizations and associations signing onto the amicus brief are Honolulu Civil Beat, Hawaii Reporter, Hawaii Public Radio, KHON, KITV, Hawaii Tribune-Herald, West Hawaii Today, the Society of Professional Journalists’ Hawaii chapter, Media Council Hawaii and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.
“Open courts are included in First Amendment protections,” said MauiTime Publisher Tommy Russo of his decision to sign onto the brief. “This process must stay open to ensure fairness.”
Click here to read the Star-Advertiser‘s Oct. 7 story on the amicus brief.
Photo of Hawaii Supreme Court: Wikimedia Commons